Press Release

Statement by Minister Mary Harney T.D. – Launch of the Report on the Cardiovascular Health Policy 2010-2019

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D., today launched the Report of the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, Changing Cardiovascular Health: Cardiovascular Health Policy 2010-2019.

The Minister brought the Report and its recommendations to Government recently and received approval to publish the report and of the proposals for its implementation.

The Group had been established by the Minister to develop a policy framework for the prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, which would ensure an integrated and quality assured approach in their management.

Noting that cardiovascular disease is the single largest cause of death in Ireland, the Minister said, “Ireland has made considerable progress in the treatment of cardiovascular disease under the last strategy, Building Healthier Hearts. Between 2002 and 2007 alone, the mortality rate for circulatory systems diseases such as heart attack and stroke decreased by 25%. There are new service developments including chest pain clinics, enhanced pre-hospital care and cardiac rehabilitation across the country.

“It’s now time to build on this and take it to a new level, based on medical evidence of what will deliver the best outcomes for patients in the years ahead.

“The new Cardiovascular Health Policy is basically about getting the best care to the patient at the right time in the right place delivered by the right experts at all stages.

“It is about implementing a higher level of care on a national, standardised basis, and to make this accessible in each region.

“The Government and I are very pleased to back policies that are clearly based on evidence of best outcomes for patients and are led by people committed to working with all their colleagues to deliver the results we all seek.

“We are confident this new Policy will deliver better health and longer years of life for tens of thousands of Irish people.

“Prevention, healthy living and primary care are as important in this strategy as the high tech interventions in major hospitals.

“I am pleased that there is an emphasis on stroke prevention and care in the strategy. We know that stroke units can reduce the length of stay and improve outcomes and dependency levels for patients who survive stroke. There is also the potential to expand thrombolysis, offering the chance to reverse the onset of stroke.

“The new Cardiovascular Policy joins those on Cancer and Diabetes. Together, they will account for the majority of health care in this country.

“Even if we were not in difficult economic times, we would have to make the changes necessary to allocate scarce resources to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. When money is very short, it’s even more important to change the way we organise our services to be the most cost-effective for patients’ best health.

“Finally, I wish to thank the members of the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, in particular the Chair, Professor Hannah McGee, who have given freely of their time and expertise in formulating the report. The implementation of the progress it promises will be greatly facilitated by the quality of work done in its preparation.”

Background

The policy report addresses the spectrum of cardiovascular disease, including prevention and management, and how these should be integrated to reduce the burden of these conditions. Prevention includes measures that individuals can take themselves as well as population interventions and areas where intersectoral action is necessary. Management of cardiovascular disease covers all aspects of health care from childhood through to old age; from pre-hospital emergency care, to rehabilitation and palliative care.

The report is set out along the following lines:

  • Burden of cardiovascular disease and recent trends
  • Prevention and health promotion
  • Primary care
  • Hospital and emergency care services
  • Rehabilitation and continuing care
  • Workforce planning
  • Framework for quality in cardiovascular health.

Primary Care Services

The policy identifies the need for Primary Care Teams to support patients with, or in danger of developing, cardiovascular disease including stroke and heart failure and involves new ways of preventing and treating patients with these conditions. The current pattern of care to heart failure patients involves presenting acutely to an emergency department and being admitted for lengthy hospital stays. The Policy envisages a shift from the current pattern of care to community based care for such patients, with Primary Care Teams providing structured proactive care supported by specialist ambulatory services. This is cost effective and, more importantly, will provide improved quality of life for the patient.

Acute Hospital Services

With regard to hospital and emergency care services, the report proposes that cardiac and stroke services be reconfigured on a network basis. Each network will provide specialist cardiovascular services by a blend of hospitals designated as local/general and regional/comprehensive centres. Under the reconfigured hospital network system, patients who experience acute heart attack or stroke will be brought directly to the appropriate centre for initial treatment. This will make emergency treatments such as stenting for heart attack and thrombolysis for stroke more widely available. These emergency treatments not only improve patient outcomes but also reduce length of stay in the hospital system. The network concept means that every hospital delivers a range of cardiovascular services, either on-site or in formal partnership with others. No services are being curtailed and the emergency recommendations represent a significant advance over current management.

Read the Report